Know Your Indian Stars – Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan

Hailing from Chandigarh, Sandesh Jhingan started training for professional football at St Stephens football academy as a 17-year-old and went on to excel and rise above the ranks. His solid performances earned him a call-up to the state team and thus he represented the u-19 Chandigarh team.  In 2011, he received a call-up to represent then second division I-league side United Sikkim where he excelled and played a major part in helping them reaching promotion into the I-league. The team weren’t able to cope with the league and got relegated the following season. Jhingan was seen as a bright young prospect and also received offers from Chinese leagues for a trial but wasn’t able to go as he was drafted into the Indian football team.  

Jhingan was first called up to the national side to 2013 but didn’t feature due to an injury he sustained during their preparatory camp. In 2014, he was drafted into the under 23 squads for the Asian games and didn’t have a good debut match where he gave away an own goal in 5-0 loss to UAE.

His rise to prominence started when he was signed by the Kerala Blasters in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League where he was not only judged the best emerging player but also received the silver medal as they lost the final. He never stopped growing since then, and the once emerging player was transformed into a versatile defender who was rock solid at the back. His defensive abilities are second to none in the current footballing scenario in the country and he deserves every bit of praise that he gets. 

He is an integral part of the National team with his leadership abilities at the back and also his ability to pop up with goals in crunch situations. His aerial prowess is unquestionable and his ability to read game situations is one worth mentioning. He captained the Kerala Blasters this year and also became the first player to notch up 50 games for club at the Indian Super League, he was on many occasions handed the captaincy of the Country as well in the absence of Sunil Chettri and looks like the one who would take over the reigns once the great man retires.  

Sandesh has truly grown into being one of the pillars on which Indian football continues to rise and with age and maturity, the only way is up for the towering defender.

Lack of Indian football players in European Leagues

India Football Pitch

Much like cricket is a religion in India, football too has a special place in this country. However, having a special place is not enough if you can’t make in it the big leagues. India has yet to make its breakthrough in football like it has done in cricket. Here are some of the reasons why our Indian football team hasn’t made it into European football leagues yet.

Making a move towards the European Leagues is quite hard for they are debatably the best in the world. To begin with, The absence of a decent platform at the basic level. Apart from the two academies, Tata Football Academy and the SAIL Football Academy, there is no proper coaching to properly groom the youngsters. The academies that do exist do have good coaches but they don’t amount to much without the basic technical staff. This is one of the main reasons behind India’s stunted growth in this sport. 

Next, we have to poor maintenance of the football fields. Other than Salt Lake and Ambedkar stadium where the grass is well maintained and evenly cut, the turfs here are horrible to play on with their brown patches and uneven grass. This, in turn, causes injury to the players making them unable to play well. On the other hand, the top European clubs have well-maintained stadiums for their players that allow them to perform their best. So when Indian players go abroad to play, they are unable to adapt to their fields to perform well.

Thirdly, there is the lack of exchange programmes between India and the European clubs which could benefit us and give us the push we need to be on among the top teams in football. However, it is a suggestion that may not come true anytime soon due to lack of proper funding. The international exposure will bode well for our team and make us reach new heights, not to mention the coaches who can learn new techniques to help the players perform better.

And finally, the standard of I-League is not up to par with the European standards as the I League has not updated its system in over a decade despite being supported by corporate sponsors. The timing of the matches does not correspond with the climate of India. The humidity and the heat effects the players making them sluggish and easily exhausted. Furthermore, the foreign players in our team, apart from Toglay and Odafe, are not up to the mark and if we don’t start interacting with the best, we may never reach the goals we set for ourselves.

Up until now only 5 of our players have performed professionally in the European clubs, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu being among them. Chhetri had signed a three-year deal with the Mittal group co-owned club, Queens Park Rangers. But his transfer from Dempo to QPR delayed due to work permit issues, which appeared due to India not being among the world’s top 70 countries, a rule that has become extremely harsh today. A similar feat was met with Gurpreet.

Former India captain Renedy Singh said, “It’s so unfair to have a ranking issue. They need to look into the quality of players then national team ranking. It would help if talented players like Sunil [Chhetri] and others make it big.”

 Although it is commendable of us to reach the 101st ranking from 173rd in India’s FIFA ranking, we still have a long way to go. It is not enough to be the 11th best team in Asia as we are still in the backwaters of football.